Easter Mini Garden

Several years ago, I stumbled upon the sweetest project while scrolling through the internets (thank you, Pinterest!). My family and I have enjoyed making an Easter Mini Garden together each Lent season since then. I have a hunch that you will LOVE this idea, so I wanted to pass it along today.

It is such a simple, but beautiful and powerful visual reminder of Christ's death for us and His resurrection from the dead!

easter mini garden hhh To give proper credit where credit is due, you can find the inspiration and instructions for the project here. Click over to see photos for instructions, too!

The Easter Mini Garden is easy and relatively inexpensive to whip up! I've seen a few different variations, but here are the basic supplies and instructions:

(It's possible you can find some/most of these items in your home or yard) shallow terra cotta potting tray terra cotta mini pot (for the tomb) little stones or pebbles grass seed (or moss!) potting soil twine or string a few small twigs (to make the crosses) one stone (to cover and then roll away from "the tomb")

1. Lay the mini pot on its side in the center the potting tray 2. Scoop soil on top of and around the sides of the pot. Pack it in to form a "hill" 3. Sprinkle grass seed all over the soil. Be generous! 4. Pour pebbles in front of the "tomb" opening 5. Use twine to tie together three crosses and then stick the crosses into the soil on the "hill" 6. Place the stone halfway in front of the "tomb" 7. Water the grass with a spray bottle each day to keep the soil moist 8. Place the Easter Mini Garden in a sunny spot in your house and watch the grass grow a bit each day! The grass might even need a trim if it grows well and quickly!

This project is such a joy. It provides yet another opportunity to chat with my child about what our Savior has lovingly done for us. We have not only enjoyed these in our own home, but at church, too! Sunday School kiddos have made them to use as centerpieces for Easter breakfast. They took them home to enjoy afterwards!

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." ~John 11:25-26

Will you make an Easter Mini Garden? Or do you enjoy making another Easter project each year? Please share it with us!

God bless your Lenten season, dear friends.

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Sitting in Church With Kids: When We Feel All Eyes are on Us

Nervous in church sometimes?  I am. I’m nervous my kids’ wild energy will shine through and I’ll look like a mess of a mom.  I would love it if everyone liked me, and I’d like them to think I have it together.  Yes, I did remember to quiz my kids on appropriate church behavior on our way in.  But, what I’ve got going on five minute later is three little ones bouncing on pew cushions asking when it’s donut time.  “I’ve got this” is not the look I’m pulling off.

I’m nervous I’ll get those comments after church.  You know the ones.  “You have your hands full.”  “Should I be helping you?”  “In my day, kids were not allowed to run like that.”  I don’t want all eyes on me when things are going wrong.  I've had days, though...  I’ll share a couple of stories.

A couple of years ago, my husband (a Seminary student) and I thought it would be nice to work towards attending communion together without babies in our arms and around our legs.  Our kids were getting old enough.  We tried it first at his parents’ smaller church, and it went well.  After all, we were only about fifteen feet from the kids, they didn’t mind sitting in the pew for five minutes.  It was special to commune together.

So, we decided to try it again at our home church on a Sunday when Daddy wasn’t preaching.  We prepared the kids ahead of time, discussing the plan so they wouldn’t be surprised.  As we made our way into the line in the aisle, though, our littlest boy started missing mommy.  I could hear him whisper “mommy, mommy.”  As we got up to the altar, he tried to follow us.  Our oldest son knew the rules, and thought he should really remind his little brother that he needed to stay put.  So, he tackled him in the aisle.  As we received the bread and wine, the whole church heard “MOMMY!”  “NO!  DADDY SAID STAY SITTING!!!” as they wrestled on the floor.  I have never been so embarrassed at church.  Needless to say, all eyes were really on us, and we did not have it together.

Has anything like that happened to you?  I’d love to hear your stories.

If your sons have ever bear hugged and wrestled while you sang in choir,

If your daughter ever pinched her big brother in front of the whole congregation during the children’s sermon,

If your baby discovered her high screeching voice during the offering,

If your kid ever screamed during your husband’s installation prayer,

If you’ve heard a little voice crying, “Mommy, I’ve got ashes in my eyes” (What!?) on Ash Wednesday,

If your son ever cried “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY” while you played piano,

If you’ve ever been relieved to walk into church and realize it’s contemporary Sunday, because the praise band will cover the sound of your kids jabbering,

If your kid ever ran down the aisle after a children’s sermon yelling, “Pastor said there was a lion in church, I think he was just pretending,”

If you've been told “you have your hands full” after a service…

Even if all eyes are on you, oh well - totally worth it.

You are doing something very right, mama.  It has nothing to do with your children’s perfect behavior, or how much you have it together.  If any of the above items happened to you, it’s because you ARE in church.  You are bringing your children to Jesus.  All the rest can become a distraction; this is what you are doing right.  Keep bringing your children to Jesus, wild as they may be.

Even if all eyes are on you, oh well - totally worth it.  You can even use that experience to encourage the moms around you when they are nervous.  “My kids tackled each other in the aisle once.  You’ll be fine.  Just let the children come to Jesus.”

There is nothing better you could be doing.  This is not a job that can be pulled off with perfection; you may rarely look graceful doing it.  Some Sundays, it will be clear you (or more likely - I) do not have it all together – but you are not letting that get in the way of following Jesus.  You know his grace covers you, you will get you through, and it will get better in time.

By all means, continue to guide your children’s behavior – no grinding cheerios into the carpet, no coloring on the pew, no snowy boots up on the hymnals, no tackling, no wrestling, no screaming, no commandeering the offering plate, no victory laps around the sanctuary.  Remind them of these things, but we aren’t in church to show off how good our kids are at following the rules.  Let the children come to Jesus.  You are doing that, so take a big breath.  You are doing a difficult job that is very important for your kids, and for your church.  You are letting your squirmy, energetic, screeching, sassy, impolite, bear-hugging, wrestling children come to Jesus.  They know his forgiveness, they know “Jesus loves me,” they know your love as you snuggle them in the pew.

One last story – The Little Children and Jesus

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

Sound familiar?  Were the kids maybe behaving like our kids do?  You can imagine how those mamas felt when the disciples rebuked them, can't you?  Don't worry, the best part comes next.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Matthew 19:13-15

Please feel free to laugh alongside me.  Share your stories of trying days with your little ones in church in the comments!

I Can(t) Do It All.

  Extra_Submerced

Today, I rise with the sun. Greet the morning, pour the coffee, wrestle tiny protesting bodies into fresh socks and thick, wooly sweaters. Brush teeth, comb hair. Revel in a luxurious shower. Put on makeup. Provide a nutritious breakfast AND leave the kitchen gleaming afterwards. Today, I can do it all.

Mounds of laundry, stacks of dishes, today you are no challenge at all for me! A frenzy of vigorous activity and before I know it, you are folded, shining, and put away in drawers and cupboards. My children--see them smiling over there on my impossibly white living room couch?--They have been quiet and well behaved all morning, reading books they have no desire to tear into tiny pieces and playing with their toys that do not end up scattered all over the house. The dolls are with the dolls and the blocks are with the blocks and I’m tearing through work I need to accomplish on my computer, checking item after item off my to-do list. Because today, I can do it all.

What’s this? An email from a client, asking if I’ve met my promised deadline? Why yes, I accomplished that way ahead of schedule. Last week, in fact. And here’s a message from a friend. Lunch soon?  “Why not come here now?” I say. My house is immaculate and I have nothing at all I’m supposed to be doing, because everything is already done. Today, I can do it all.

My husband comes home to a veritable feast I’ve prepared, photographed, and posted to Instagram. The meal is not at all difficult to prepare with the help of my darling preschool children, none of whom drop an egg shell into the batter or argue over who gets to stand on the blue chair or stir the wooden spoon. Afterwards, there is no flour settling like dust in a thick layer over the floor and I do not have to pick any of their hair out of the meatloaf. My husband and I have such a wonderful conversation during our meal and nobody at all interrupts us because our children are too busy saying please and thank you and chewing with their mouths closed, like I’ve taught them to do. Oh, how we laugh as we enjoy their company and then tuck them all peacefully into their beds, a process which they never fight because they love getting into their pajamas and going to sleep every night. After the kids are asleep, which happens instantly, my husband and I relax in our hot tub with a bottle of wine and spend quality time together, neither of us staring into our separate glowing rectangles thoroughly ignoring each other. Nope, it’s quality bonding time followed by going to sleep at a respectable hour. Because today, I can do it all.

What’s that sound? BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Oh drat. My alarm. Looks like it’s morning for real and as usual I’ve overslept. My children are screaming and hitting each other in the head with the toys that have been blanketing the living room for three weeks straight, I can’t remember the last time I showered, and I’m starting to suspect a raccoon may have constructed a permanent home in our laundry pile in the basement. It’ll be cereal for breakfast this morning and probably pizza delivery for dinner. My inbox is overflowing, I’m way behind in my work, and I doubt I’ll see my husband at all tonight because he’s way behind in his too. I pull my pillow over my face and wish I could return to sleep. Today, I just can’t do it. Not at all.

Turns out, my life is nothing like the life people appear to live on Pinterest or in magazines. My house is rarely clean, my children are messy, squirrelly, argumentative, feisty little human beings. I’m not the most patient parent, or the most loving wife, or the most reliable, dependable worker bee. I can’t do it all. Not at all.

When I can’t do it, when I wake up and want to put the pillow back over my head, ignoring my responsibilities with a “nope, nope, nope,” it isn’t me who gets me through the day. It isn’t me who picks me up and reminds me I have an incredible gift and purpose as a wife, mother, friend, and worker. It isn’t me who has beautifully and wonderfully created me and equipped me with the gifts and talents I need to do the work He has assigned me to do.

God works on my heart daily teaching me to be content with my messy house and chaotic life. He listens to my apologies and wipes my tears, reassuring me I’m forgiven when I’ve screwed up as a wife or mother for the thousandth time. He encourages me to keep going, to renew my focus on Him, to find the greater purpose he’s given me buried beneath the piles of dishes and laundry.

Nope. I can’t do it all. But:

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

Thanks, God, for never abandoning me! You’re there on my best days, and you’re there on my worst. Thank you for giving me the strength to “be content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12). My purpose isn’t simply laundry or dishes, Lord. Nor is my goal in life to have the most pinterest-worthy existence. Instead, you have asked me to make disciples of all nations, and part of that commission means teaching my family through example and your Word to know and love you. Help me to do this with a cheerful heart Lord, trusting in your guidance. Amen. 

 

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Why Memorize Scripture?

final memory photo For the first time in my adult life, I have a piano in my living room. I’ve owned the piano for almost two years now, but have kept it stored in the garage of my rented townhouse, awaiting a house with room enough for a piano in the living room.

I’m sitting at the piano with a stack of sheet music I haven’t seen in eleven years. My mom brought over three boxes of this music after I complained to her of having nothing to play beyond “chop sticks” and hymns. Flipping through the music, I sight read a line here, a piece there, stumbling through the parts my brain can’t quite decipher at the pace my fingers want to play.

Then I come across a piece I recognize. Its pages yellow with brittle edges and a rip dividing the second page, the volume containing this French Suite by Bach seems ancient. Eleven years ago, I performed this piece as part of an audition for a college scholarship I didn’t get. Then I went off to college and stopped playing the piano on a regular basis. This French Suite may seem ancient, but it’s actually the most recent piece I’ve performed from memory.

Eleven years has left me unable to remember how the Suite sounds, so I open to the start of the piece and begin to sight read. The beginning is simple enough, the right hand playing straight forward sixteenth notes while the left plods along with eighths at an easy pace. I smile as the familiar tune fills the room. I remember how the music is supposed to sound now, and I hum along in my mind.

Then I hit the fourth line of music and abruptly stumble over the notes as the once predictable right hand sixteenth notes dissolve into an unexpected series of trilled dotted eighth notes and the left hand simultaneously doubles its pace. I stop and backtrack a few measures and try the passage again. Once again, my fingers stumble. I slow to a snail’s pace and pick through the notes one at a time, but my fingers just aren’t connecting with the message my eyes are telling my brain to send them. What’s even more frustrating is I can hear how the passage is supposed to sound in my brain. I can even sing it. But I can’t play it. Or can I?

Backtracking once more, I try the passage again. But this time, when I near the stumbling place, I close my eyes. I don’t try to read the music. Instead, I turn inward, listen to the passage in my brain, and let my fingers fall where they feel comfortable. To my amazement, I am able to play the passage perfectly with my eyes closed! My eyes and my brain may fail to interpret the notes written on the page, yet my fingers, seemingly independent of all conscious thought, continue the song!  A piece of music I worked to memorize over eleven years ago has quietly stuck with me. Despite neglecting it for years, I can still play it due to the amazing gift of memory.

Memorization can often feel pointless in today’s age of instant media access. In fact, many parents with children in Christian schools complain at the amount of homework time spent daily on pointless “memory work” assignments. Why memorize a Bible passage when a Bible is nearly always available? If we don’t have a hard copy nearby, we can simply use google on our smart phone to look up the passage. We can install a Bible app! We can then text it directly to the person asking about the passage or read it aloud to them. With a few taps of a screen, we can bring up any hymn, any music video, any sheet music, or any chapter of the Bible along with essays, commentary, and other resources to help us explore and share our faith. So why memorize? Does God’s command to commit scripture to heart really apply to us today?

I share the story of remembering the piece of music with my eyes closed with my mom and she says she isn’t surprised. Music and verses memorized when young often stick with people for a life time. In fact, Alzheimer's patients who are unable to recognize friends or loved ones and who cannot recall what they had for breakfast can often still recite full Bible passages and sing hymns by heart. Memories related to music, love, and faith are the very last to go. Shouldn’t we be working hard to solidify these memories in our children so they carry them with them always to the very end of their lives? If the fate of disease should befall them in old age, if their eyesight fails to the point they can no longer read, if their hands are no longer able to operate pages of a book let alone a smart phone, if their brains falter and they are no longer able to process or understand the people around them, scripture will remain in their hearts due to the gift of memorization. Use this gift, and share it with your kids!

Rote repetition is one way to memorize Bible passages. Another way to help your children memorize Scripture almost effortlessly is to sing it! I can’t tell you the number of times my brain is triggered by a word, a phrase, or a tune, and unwillingly launches into an entire scripture verse thanks to my years spent working at a Christian summer camp where scripture was sung. Pair your favorite verses with silly tunes and sing them throughout your day with your kids on a frequent basis, and those verses will stick in their minds. Did you know there are almost fifty direct commands to sing in scripture? Here are a couple:

Ephesians 5:19b “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16 “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

First and foremost, sing in your heart. And, if you have the ability to do so, sing out loud! Use the gift of song to teach and admonish one another and your children. Use it to aid in the otherwise monotonous task of memorization. God knew what He was doing when he made tunes “catchy” for us humans! Give your kids the kind of ear worms you want to still be resonating in their ears in 80 years.

Got any fun methods of memorizing Scripture? We’d love to hear them!

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